Doctor Strange and the Vision

In Part Three of my Doctor Strange Chronology, I mentioned my belief that the “superhero” costume given to the Master of the Mystic Arts in Doctor Strange # 177 (February 1969) may have been inspired by the look of the Golden Age Vision, and even allowed Roy Thomas, on some level, to pretend he was working on a series featuring this beloved character instead of the Silver Age sorcerer.

After all, it was Roy Thomas who introduced the modern-day Vision to the Marvel Universe in Avengers # 57 (October 1968) – only a few months before the debut of the revised Doctor Strange. The heroic android was a reinvention of the Vision character created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby for Marvel Mystery Comics in 1940. This mysterious lawman from another dimension was one of Roy’s favorites from that era, leading him not only to introduce the new character, but to use the original as one of Rick Jones’ psychic projections at the climax of the Kree-Skrull War in Avengers # 97.

I was first struck by the similarities between the two while reading Essential Doctor Strange v.2, and I think it was the lack of color that really allowed me to notice the resemblance. And of course, the original art that Roy Thomas used to write the script would not have been colored yet, thus minimizing the distinctions between the characters. Take a close look. Though their costumes are quite similar, they have almost exactly the same head. The clearest similarity is in the distinctive shape of the eyes, and I was immediately reminded of a quote from Jack Kirby that I had recently read:

“The Silver Surfer is simple – the same with Spider-Man’s eyes, which actually date back to the Vision. I don’t know if you ever saw the Vision I created for the old Atlas mags which was, I think, at the same time Captain America was out. I set the pattern for the eyes, which are kind of mystic.”
--Jack Kirby

Indeed, the Vision, the Silver Surfer, and the new Doctor Strange all had the exact same eye shape, as well as having big “bald” heads and typically grim features. Kirby’s comment that these eyes are “mystic” is especially interesting.

A side-by-side comparison shows the many points of commonality between the two characters in question. Both wear flowing red-and-yellow capes with pointy collars, have a dark cool-colored bodysuit with pointy gauntlets and a band around the waist. Doctor Strange’s costume is certainly more elaborate, with lots of little fiddly-bits, of course, but even with color, I find the comparison striking.

Perhaps the most telling evidence is the ease with which a page from one of Doctor Strange’s comics can be converted into a new adventure for Aarkus, a.k.a. the Vision. Here, in this page by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer from Doctor Strange # 181, some minor touch-ups and a different coloring job give new life to a Golden Age hero, as Nightmare’s Dream Dimension doubles for the Vision’s Smoke World.

Naturally, it may not have been some grand scheme of Roy Thomas’ to change one character into the other. He may not even have been aware of what he was doing. The re-design of Doctor Strange would certainly have involved Roy as writer/assistant editor, and also editor Stan Lee, artist Gene Colan, and possibly John Romita, who often acted as staff artist/art director/costume designer in those days. Even publisher Martin Goodman may have had some say in the matter. But I see Roy as a driving force on this book. And as to whether there was some subconscious influence deriving from his deep love of Golden Age superheroes, who can say?

The visuals speak for themselves. You be the judge.

The above Jack Kirby quote appears in The Comics Journal Library, vol. 1: Jack Kirby (p.4), published by Fantagraphics Books.


At 5:59 PM, Blogger NINE9INCHE STUD said...

the Golden Vision and Blue faced Doctor Strange-twine lost at birth


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